Friday, February 27, 2009

Castle of Dreams

I woke up this morning remembering the remnants of a dream that will make such an awesome story. I've been playing with the idea all day and can hardly wait to start writing it. Unfortunately, I have no time today or tomorrow. It makes me want to scream. I have critique group tonight, a stake camp meeting tomorrow morning, and a stake youth activity tomorrow night. I guess I can squeeze some writing in tomorrow afternoon between chores and activities. Maybe even a bit tonight after critique group. I have to take my kids with me this time around so I won't stay as late as usual, so, yeah, I might just be able to do a bit tonight. Hooray!

On another note, I've been invited to help with a literacy presentation at a school in April. I'm not even published yet and have an invitation to talk about how writers come up with their ideas. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and thrilled at the same time. If I'm going to talk about any part of writing, coming up with ideas is definitely my thing. I've got more ideas than I'll ever be able to write. I can feel confident in this thing at least.

On a third note, I'll be publishing a blog over at LDS Writer's Blogck every Sunday from now on. I've been a part of the group from near the beginning but haven't been very regular with my blogs. I'm changing that now. I'm really excited to be posting with this amazing group of writers. If you haven't checked them out before, please do. They've got some awesome advice on writing and are some of the most wonderful people I've met.

And thus ends my rambling post. Until tomorrow . . .

Quote of the Day: "One nice thing about putting the thing away for a couple of months before looking at it is that you start appreciate your own wit. Of course, this can be carried too far. But it's kind of cool when you crack up a piece of writing, and then realize you wrote it. I recommend this feeling."
~Steven Brust

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Still Going Strong

I got my first rejection of the year today and it doesn't sting nearly as much as I'd feared. It was an agent I queried just last night. I hadn't expected an answer quite so soon, but I'm okay with it as I didn't think it was a great match for me anyhow. I still have two others out and will keep going until I run out of people to submit to. I know the market's tough right now, but nobody can say yes unless they see it so it's worth taking a chance on the ouch in the hopes of a hooray.

I'm finally determined to do my part to make it happen. It feels better than I ever thought it could.

Quote of the Day: "Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind."
~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Changing Voices

I've been reading Scot Westerfield's Uglies and Pretties and have been fascinated with how the entire voice changed from one book to the other. Voice is one of those things that's hard to pin down. It comes from not only speech but thought patterns and the way we perceive the world around us. It's word choice and perspective and so much more that combine to give us a feel for the person. In Uglies Tally is a 16 year old, slightly rebellious problem solving girl experiencing a lot of things for the first time and it shows in the voice. After she becomes a Pretty, her word choice changes and she sounds like a futuristic valley girl supplanted from the 80's. The same character, but as her brain was changed, so did everything about her and it reflected in the voice.

It's been a fascinating tool to pull from the writer's toolbox. I am interested to see how it translates to the next book, Specials. Tally's character remains the same, but man, what a shift in everything else. It's a tool I'd like to use to show change sometime soon.

Quote of the Day: :"Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kitty Mail

I've had a serious phobia for the past four years, the one thing I am absolutely, positively sure has kept me from getting published. I've had submissionphobia. I have yet to meet an author who had an agent or editor approach them and say "Send me something, anything, please!" It could happen, I guess, but thus far it has not been my experience. I've sent out a query or manuscript here and there and almost got accepted by Shadow Mountain last spring, but I haven't done a big send out for a long time.

I know why I have submissionphobia, but it's silly, really. Last time I sent about 10 queries out and got five responses. Three were form rejections, one was a request for a partial they later rejected, and one was a vicious, personal attack on my writing. Granted, my manuscript needed some work. I was still new at writing and hadn't learned the points of good editing yet, but I didn't think it was bad enough to be "fraught with punctuation and grammatical errors" and that my storyline was "frou-frou". I let it create a paranoia in me that has kept me from submitting but a handfull of times in over four years.

Well, no more. This weekend at LTUE I decided to put my heart into submission. I set myself a goal and I'm going to share it here to keep myself accountable. I decided to send one submission a day through the end of March and I may just continue it beyond that. I'll report here to keep myself accountable.

Where before there was quiet dread whenever I'd drop a manuscript in the mailbox or hit the send key, today I felt nothing but excitement and determination when I sent my first synopsis to Lori Perkins. She was one of those that hadn't responded four years ago but later asked to see a synopsis. Whether she'll want to take a closer look or not, I don't know, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and am determined to keep trying until I find a home for my stories.

There's a kitty in the mailbox just waiting to surprise someone. I'm hoping they'll want to take her home with them.

Quote of the day: "Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such."
~Samuel Butler

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Read My Other Post

I posted at the LDS Writers Blogck today. Go check it out!


I'm back from LTUE and didn't take a single picture. This year was very different for me. I went with the purpose of being with my writing friends and not for all of the learning. This was a year of taking comfort in the writing community and it worked amazingly well. I spent a huge amount of time with my roomie, Julie Wright, who is an awesome friend and amazing author. I got to hang out with my buddy James Dashner, who I think of as the little brother I never know whether to hit or hug. I made new friends with Kristi over at Hoontah and hung out with old friends from the many other conferences I've attended. Even my hat sisters were there. There were local authors and national authors both on panels and in the audience and I felt as if I were part of this huge, supportive community.

I felt like I belonged.

It was the first time I've attended this particular conference that I felt like I was part of something bigger than just myself. There was no awkwardness, no pining to meet big name authors but too afraid to approach them. I just introduced myself and hung out with them, feeling as if I had a right to be there. After all, I'm a writer too.

That's the thing I've had to come to understand. Being published doesn't make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer. And if I take my writing as seriously as they do, then I'm just as much a writer as these successful authors are. I may not have the notoriety or the paycheck to go along with it, but I am, without any doubt, a writer.

I write, therefore I am.

Quote of the Day: "If I fall asleep with a pen in my hand, don't remove it - I might be writing in my dreams."
~Danzae Pace

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I'll be at a free Writer's Symposium at BYU for the next three days called Life, the Universe, and Everything. There will be a ton of authors there including Brandon Sanderson (Elantris and Mistborn), James Dashner (The Jimmy Fincher Saga and the 13th Reality), Julie Wright (My Not-So-Fairytale Life), and Tracy Hickman (The ORIGINAL Dragonlance writer) and Laura Hickman. It will be my fourth year attending and it's well worth the time if you're in the area. I'll report on some of the classes over the next few days. Hope to see some of you there!

Quote of the Day: "Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Famous Veggie Sandwich

I've had a couple of requests for my veggie sandwich, so thought I'd share the recipe today. To me, good recipes are like good books: they just beg to be shared. This is one of those recipes that proves the old saying "the secret's in the sauce."

Karen's Veggie Sandwich

Honey mustard sauce

1 cup of mayonaise
1/3 to 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 to 1 tsp of Garlic powder
1/2 to 1 tsp of onion powder

Combine and mix well.

Two slices of sturdy bread, like a multigrain
Cucumber cut in half and sliced lengthwise
Onion, preferably Walla Walla or Vidalia (sweet)
Bell pepper
A sweet cheese like Muenster or Provolone, though any kind will do
Alfalfa sprouts
Banana peppers (optional-my friends like them, I'm so-so)
Sliced olives
Pecan chips

Slather honey mustard sauce on both sides of breath. On one slice, layer cheese, cucumber, tomato, avacado, bell pepper, onion, and sprouts, then drizzle more sauce on the sprouts. Add olives and pecans, then top the sandwich with the other slice of bread.

It's about the messiest sandwich you'll ever eat, but it's worth the clean-up. You don't even miss the meat!

If you decide to try it, let me know what you think.

Quote of the Day:
"A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one."
~Baltasar Gracián

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hidden Crystals

I have discovered a wonderful resource for coming up with fantastic ideas. You'll never guess who it might be. Well, maybe you will, but it's something I've not used in this fashion before. Want to know what it is? Yeah? Are you ready for it?

It's members of my critique groups!

Yes, Yes, it seems silly that I didn't realize that before. I've used my friends to help come up with ideas, I've even used family members, but for some reason critique groups have always been for . . . well . . . critiqueing. Brainstorming never entered into the equation.

So, thank you Shanna for helping me fill in my plot holes and making my world a more real place. You can be sure I'll be using you more in the future!

Quote of the Day: "I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."
~James Michener

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In Celebration of my 100th Post . . .

In the midst of my Love lists I hit my 100th post, but didn't want to interrupt the lists, so I am now posting . . . 100 Random Things About Me!

1 Mom was in labor with me for 38 hours because . . .
2 I was backwards in the womb
3 I wouldn't stop crying until the nurses let me see my mom, and after that they said I was the best baby in the nursery
4 I am the 3rd of 4 children, the 5th of 6, or the 7th of 8, depending on who you ask. The third of my daddy's, the 5th of my mom's, and the 7th of them all together.
5 I liked to hide in the dryer when I was a kid
6 One of my favorite pasttimes was pushing my brother over when he was learning to sit up
7 I lived in California until I was 4
8 My daddy passed away 3 days before we were to move to Washington
9 We moved anyway
10 I love poetry. My parents both wrote poems, so I guess it swam through the genes.
11 My favorite color is blue.
12 I am addicted to World of Warcraft.
13 I love movies. Once a month I take a day to myself and spend the entire day at the movie theater. Yes, by myself. I look forward to it for weeks!
14 I have no problem spending vast amounts of time all alone. I've always been that way. I can always find something entertaining to do--like writing.
15 I am addicted to office supplies. I can't walk into an office store without buying something.
16 My favorite pens in the whole world are Sanford Uni-ball Vision, Vision Elite, and Uni-ball Signo. Sanford makes the best pens EVER!
17 I also love writing with fountain pens. There's something about the scratch of a nib across paper that thrills me.
18 I love to write by hand, which is funny for a kid who got straight C's in penmanship.
19 I have a license in massage therapy.
20 I tried to go to school for computer programming but found I was better at repairing
21 I had music scholarship offers from Weber State College and Utah State University for the flute.
22 I picked USU and got mononucleosis my second quarter in and had to go home
23 I served a mission in Hartford Connecticut and was able to serve in four states:
24 Rhode Island
25 New York
26 Connecticu
27 and Vermont
28 My best friend is my next door neighbor
29 My sons are adopted but they look a lot like us
30 I'm addicted to Pepsi, just like my grandmother was.
31 I've been told people can't tell where I'm from. My accent is muddled from living in the East, West, and South.
32 The dentists frequently tell me I have nearly perfect teeth, but I never had braces
33 I had to train myself to swallow differently when I was 6 because the dentist said pushing my teeth with my tongue when swallowing would eventually lead to braces.
34 I love Mexican food
35 My sister and her daughter lived with us for a while when I was young and she cooked authentic Mexican food.
36 The first time she made it I asked "What's this junk?"
37 That got me yelled at
38 Then I ate every bite.
39 It's her fault I love it to much. I could have Mexican breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I never get tired of it.
40 My favorite candy is Mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Not the big ones. They have too much peanut butter. The minis have a perfect balance of chocolate to peanut butter.
41 When I was a kid I didn't like peanut butter. Instead of a PBJ I'd just have butter and jam.
42 I have made my own butter.
43 I lived on a farm in Washington and Oklahoma.
44 My little brother and I tried to ride the sheep in Washington.
45 We had cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and horses in Oklahoma.
46 My h9rse once threw me in a briar patch.
47 It hurt
48 I learned to drive when I was 12. My step-dad took me out on the backroads in Oklahoma where every stop sign is at the top of a hill and taught me to drive a stick. It was scary-fun. I'd kill the car every time I stopped and peel out trying to get over the hill.
49 I drove better in reverse than forward when I was learning for my license
50 I taught my husband to drive stick at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City.
51 During the 2002 Olympics we lived close enough to the stadium that we could watch the fireworks go off on TV and then hear it delayed outside.
52 Despite living so close, I never attended an Olympic event.
53 I love to build things.
54 Despite my allergy to sawdust, the scent is like heaven to me. It takes me to a happy place.
55 I built my den out of half of my garage, tiled, painted, built bookshelves, and even helped with the electric.
56 I take after my mother in the building arena. At the age of 73 she built a storage shed and a raised deck, the deck being the roof to the shed.
57 My mom is my hero. I could do no better in this life than to become even a fraction of the woman she was.
58 I love to sleep outside under the stars. As a kid in Oklahoma I slept out every night of the summer it didn't rain, and even some that it did.
59 In Bountiful I slept on the trampoline or on the roof.
60 The lsat time I slept under the stars was the night before I got married.
61 I have a niece whose only broken bones came when she was with me. Once, falling off my horse, and once falling down the stairs when I was babysitting. I didn't push her either time. Honest!
62 I have two half-brothers whom I have not seen or spoken to since I was 4. It makes me sad.
63 I love medical mystery shows like Bones and the CSI's (all of them).
65 My favorite actress is Sandra Bullock.
66 I don't have a favorite actor.
67 I love castles and would love to live in one someday . . . or at least a modern approximation of one.
68 My first love of books came in the form of mythology from different cultures. Japanese and Native American were particularly interesting.
69 My second book love was mysteries, particularly Nancy Drew.
70 I didn't discover fantasy until I was 11 an then it was The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. They gave me a rather well rounded introduction to speculative fiction.
71 I once got 100 dollars for Christmas when I was 16 and I spent every penny on books, some of which I still have.
72 Needless to say, Mom wasn't too happy when I came home with two stacks of books. They cost 2.99 apiece back then. Those were the days.
73 I learned to harmonize at the age of 10. Mom and Grandma were both singers and Grandma could pick the harmony out of anything and taught me how to hear it. I still sing harmony along with the radio more often than not.
74 I first met my husband while laying carpet, but I like to forget that initial introduction since I hid as quickly as I could. I wasn't looking too hot after spending the day on my knees with carpet glue.
75 Our real meeting, when we actually paid attention to each other, took place on a piano bench.
76 I fell in love the moment I heard him sing. It was love at first note.
77 I couldn't have children.
78 I had PCOS
79 I no longer have it since that would require ovaries I no longer have
80 I am a cancer survivor, very blessed to have had it caught extremely early
81 I have never broken a bone, so far as I know.
82 I am totally accident prone. I'm always getting hurt
83 I'm also clumsy, dropping things all the time
84 I love to cook
85 I hated cooking when I was a kid
86 I don't like following recipes.
87 My sister-in-law says I should have been an engineer.
88 I'm always figuring out better ways to do things. Once when moving we lived on the third floor of an apartment complex with the parking lot on the back side. Moving boxes meant going down three flights of stairs and walking all the way around the building to the truck, so I devised a system that would let us send things directly from our balcony to the truck. It was a matter of rope, a laundry basket, and a metal clip. We'd put things in the basket, clip it to the rope and lower over the side. We got out of there in record breaking time.
89 I've written two books and started many more
90 I somehow lost over five years of poems. Yeah, heartbreaking.
91 I love nuts. Just about any food can be made better with nuts in it.
92 I invented my own version of a veggie sandwich that has become extremely popular with my friends.
93 I'm good at fixing things. It's just a knack I have.
94 I collect wolves, dragons, and fairies. Pictures and statuettes, not the real thing.
95 I love animals and they seem to be drawn to me. The neighbors laugh because all three of my cats follow me wherever I go.
96 I co-teach a writing class at one of the local jr. highs thanks to my teacher/writer friend Shanna.
97 My favorite snack is apples with peanut butter.
98 I love bagels with cream cheese
99 Let's just say I love food and leave it at that
100 My greatest dream is to be published someday soon.

Quote of the day: "The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it."
~Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love #14

I saved this one for last because today is Valentines Day after all.

I love Gary. My mom always told me the key to a successful marriage was to find my best friend and marry him and that is what I did. Gary is a man of strength and honor and has a voice that could sing the birds out of the trees. It was that which made me fall in love with him. The first time I met him we sat on a piano bench with a friend. She and I sang a song she'd written as I created harmony for her . . . and then a third voice joined in, wordless, but beautiful in the part he created for a never heard song. I watched him sing and it was as if his entire soul was a lighthouse guiding me in.

I fell in love then and there. People talk about love at first sight, but that's not the way it was for me. It was love at first sound, love at first note that sucked me in. To this day I stop whatever I'm doing and listen whenever Gary sings, whether it's in the shower, or while he's doing dishes, or singing to his online friends.

So, today is for Gary. I love you, sweetheart. Happy Valentines Day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love #13

I love love, whether it be the romantic love of a couple, the gentle love of a child, or the joyous love of friendship. Love eases hurt, heals pain, enables forgiveness, and puts a smile on my face. Love is so important that when asked what was the greatest commandment, "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

The first two important commands the Lord gives us are about love.

That's how important it is.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love #12

There is something about the sound of the wind through the trees that makes me feel at peace. I spend time in nature and my spirit breathes a sigh that mingles with the breeze. The sight of a waterfall or a sunset, the happy chitterings of a chipmunk or the quiet step of a deer make me feel like I'm strolling through the Creator's garden and there's no place I'd rather be.

Rain makes me smile. Snow makes me thoughtful. The mountains make my heart soar. Waterfalls make me cry. Each element that God created touches me in a different way that take me somewhere higher and better. I find I do my best thinking and writing outside, but then that would make sense. Where else could the Creator best be found than in the midst of his creations?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love #11

I spent several of my formative years in Noble, Oklahoma. It was an awesome place to grow up. We moved there when I was eight and left just before I turned fourteen. It was one of those little towns that didn't even have a stop light. The business section of town was about one block long and we lived six miles outside of town on a forty acre parcel of land with my grandparents and most of my siblings at one point or another.

I love the heavy air and the smell of a storm coming in. I love the music of the cicadas lulling me to sleep each night. I love the casual nature and sweet southern drawl of everyone around me and I miss good fried okra.

Almost twenty five years since I left and Oklahoma is still the home of my heart.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love #10

This one had to come up sooner or later and I figure today's as good a day as any, though since you're reading my blog I assume you already know this about me.

I love to write. For some strange reason I can string words together on a page that make sense whereas what pops out of my mouth--not so much. I love creating my own worlds and creating inhabitants that live the lives I (literally) dream about. I love that all the make-believe things can seem so real there. Dragons? Check. Underwater airways? Check. Waking up in someone else's body? Check. Anything is possible when I write and the thrill that comes with it is better than any chemical high could ever produce. It's natural. It's Creative. It's heavenly.

I truly believe that when we create things we become partners with the greatest creator of all. I love being a pen in the hand of the Lord and feeling his spirit move through me. Even in writing fantasy? You might ask. You bet! Fantasy is nothing but a grown up fairy tale, a story with a purpose and a message in many cases.

Besides the gospel and my family it is my greatest love of all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Love #9

Today is for my hat sisters. When I first moved to Tooele almost seven years ago I was very closed off, afraid to let anybody in. I'd been seriously hurt by an old friend and had learned not to trust anybody. It was a miserable way to live. Within the first week I met a beautiful lady whom I greatly admired but thought to myself she'd never want to be my friend.

Well, time proved me wrong. Within a couple of years I opened up to her and we started walking together. Our morning conversations were something I looked forward to and were what got me out the door in the morning. We discovered that we shared a love of the written word and for writing it ourselves and together we have grown.

She has always been an amazing cheerleader and tells me how wonderful I am. She always builds me up and listens to me whine and cry when things are tough. A few years ago her sister moved to town and they pulled me into their little family and adopted me. I'm now the middle child and can't think of a better place to be. They give me unending support, let me test my cooking experiments on them, take me to lunch, and make me laugh until I can't breathe.

Thank you, my hat sisters, for helping me to love and trust again.

I love you Shari and Jill.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Love #8

My sons. I spent seven years trying to become a mother but my body betrayed me time and time again. The ache in my heart was a galaxian void that nothing could fill.

And then they came. Wounded, neglected, and oh so wild these boys entered my home and consumed my heart, filling the void that nothing else could. They had a hard beginning, and struggle daily with challenges still, but they are precious, with hearts big enough to overcome the hurt and dish out a universe of love.

They healed the hole in my heart and gave me the thing I wanted most in this life: A family. It matters not that we don't share blood, for the greatest thing I have discovered in adopting my sons is this. That old saying about blood being thicker than water may be true in a scientific sense, but there is something much, much thicker than blood--


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Love #7

Fairies, and dragons, and wolves, oh my! Fairies, and dragons, and wolves, oh my! Fairies, and dra . . . . All right, I'll stop already. I couldn't resist.

I'm not sure why, but wolves have been a passion of mine since I was a teenager and they frequently make their way into my stories. Dragons became a later love, and fairies even more recently, but they all have one thing in common: they inspire me.

I look at these creatures and anything seems possible. There's just something about them that makes me feel things. I can imagine myself stalking on four legs through a winter forest, the land around me ablaze with scent and sound. I can feel the wind beneath my powerful wings as I dive, fire searing the grasses below. And then I taste the sweet nectar and pollen as I wake within a morning flower. The images flow when I'm surrounded by these three creatures, whether they be pictures or plates on my wall, or the statuettes that line my shelves. They help me to create and, crazy or not, I'll take what I can get when the inspiration is lacking.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Love #6

It's been six months today since my mom passed away, and so in honor of her, love number six is for my mother, Earlene. She was my friend, my confidante, and my hero and was one of those rare individuals who spread light around her wherever she went.

She always made time for me, whether for big things or small, and so many times I thought I would be in huge trouble over something I had to talk to her about, she understood. My brother loves to tell the story of when I was 5 and scratched the heck out of the rocking chair for no good reason. When Mom found it and demanded to know who had done it, I immediately pointed at him. When she came after him for a spanking he kept saying, "What did I do? What did I do?" and her answer was "You know what you did." I felt so guilty for getting my little brother in trouble I finally confessed and begged, "Spank me, Mom. Spank me!"

She refused. Sean never let me live that down, but that's the kind of mom she was. She let life teach us our lessons and for the most part didn't spank us often.

My favorite times with Mom were roadtrips. Being locked in a car for hours on end is a great way to get to know someone and I think that's why we became as good of friends as we were. We would spend that time talking about anything and everything. She would share her memories with me, like the time she got caught on the railroad bridge with a train coming and had to hang over the side until it had passed. Or what had made her pursue my father until he agreed to marry her, despite their age difference. She told me stories of her life and mine and shared her testimony of the Savior every chance she got.

So, instead of focusing on the sorrow of her loss, today I celebrate her life. Today I remember her for the grand example she was and rejoice that I had a mother as precious and heavenly as I did. My mom truly was an angel.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Love #5

Floyd Gillespie, born January 31, 1913, died February 5, 1975.

My Daddy.

A tough anniversary date for me today, but the perfect time to celebrate my love for the man who is half of who I am. A man who not only married a woman 18 years his junior, but took in her four children and helped bring two more into the world. A man who wouldn't stop once he got home until Mom could sit down too. He read to me. Played with me. Taught me to love the world and my Heavenly Father.

I never heard him yell. He took me for rides on his motorcycle and let me sit in the front. He built me a sandbox and tossing games and called me his little princess.

When I was three I decided to ride down the block on my tricycle, unaware of how dangerous that could be in a city as large as Los Angeles. One of the neighbors invited me in for a tuna fish sandwich and I spent a good amount of time at their house before I climbed back on my tricycle and headed home. On the way back Daddy found me and hands on his hips asked where I'd been. I told him what had happened and he explained how worried they were when they couldn't find me.

I looked up at him and with tears in my eyes said, "I sorry Daddy. I not eat witches anymore."

I still remember the twitch of his mouth as he tried not to laugh and how it felt for him to gather me up in his arms and hold me tight. I may have only had him for four short years, but I could not have asked for a better father. Ever patient and kind, he is the example of parent I strive to be.

I love you, Daddy. You've got a corner of my heart forever.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Love #4

I love to cook, which is strange considering I hated it when I was young. Over the last decade my mom has said on more than one occasion, "you know, for a kid who hated to cook you sure have turned into a darn good one." I don't know why I didn't catch the cooking bug when I was young. I liked to do breakfasts and still do. I make a mean omelet and french toast, but beyond that I had absolutely no interest in the kitchen except to eat from it.

My little brother on the other hand took to it from the very beginning. He could flip the pancakes without a spatula and cooked Chinese food for my dates several times. It took being a missionary to finally find the joy in cooking for me.

See, I was craving something sweet and had run out of money. There was nothing in the house but stuff to bake with. I had no idea what to do with it, and there was no cookbook to be found, so I winged it. I grabbed some cocoa powder, flour, sugar and a bunch of other random ingredients, threw them together, tasted, and adjusted it before finally tossing it in the oven. Was it a contest winning recipe? Oh, heavens no . . . but it was edible and that was all I needed to satisfy the chocolate bug.

What I discovered was that cooking the traditional way bored me. Following recipes and cooking so that things tasted the same way every time I made them held no interest, but once I found a way to cook creatively, I was hooked. I have adapted over the years so that I can use a recipe now and then . . . but I never cook it exactly the way it says to. I always find some way to spice it up. A dash of curry or garlic can do amazing things to food.

Cooking is just another creative adventure in my eyes, just one more way I can express myself and share it, if not with the world then at least the neighbors.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Love #3

Books. The Written Word. Whether fiction or non-fiction, fantasy, mysteries, or young adult, books have been my friends from the very beginning. My father was determined to teach me to read by the time I was four and he very nearly did it. If he hadn't passed away that year I am sure he would have succeeded. My very earliest memories were of sitting on Daddy's lap in the rocking chair while he read Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham and Are you my Mother?

After he died I went through a couple of years of not wanting to read. I think it was because it reminded me so much of him and it hurt too much. As a result I was in the lowest reading group in first grade. I had no interest in it and stubbornly refused to put in the effort.

One day I came home from school and Mom and I sat down to talk. I don't remember much of what she said to me, but I do remember her reminding me of how much Daddy loved words and how sad he would be to know I had turned away from them. Most importantly she said that by sharing his love of books I could make him a part of my life by loving what he loved. It completely changed my attitude and within just a few weeks I'd gone from the lowest reading group to the highest. I just needed the right motivation, I guess.

We lived in the country through elementary, middle, and most of jr. high school (middle school was grades 4, 5, and 6 for me) so there wasn't a lot to do during the summer. Every couple of weeks Mom would take us to the library and my brother and I would check out as many books as they would allow. I found that I particularly enjoyed mythology from around the world. I didn't just read greek and roman myths, I read japanese and native american myths as well. I read ghost stories and mysteries and supposedly non-fictional accounts of alien kidnappings. I tried to read War and Peace when I was ten. I didn't get very far, but I tried. I was willing to give every world in every book a chance.

In sixth grade my teacher tried something that was new for me. We had reading time once a week where she would pass out a whole bunch of books and we would read from each one for five to ten minutes. That was the year I discovered Madeleine L'engle's A Wrinkle in Time and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. That same year I was going through a box of books belonging to my brother-in-law, mostly filled with Louis L'Amour but near the bottom I found a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars. Suddenly books weren't about things happening in our own world, they were of new worlds where amazing things could happen. The world opened up before me then and I came to believe that anything was possible.

Books were my friends when nobody was around and to this day I find myself turning to the written word when I'm depressed or feeling insecure. Sometimes too much so. In college, I spent the weeks before I got mono reading David Eddings Belgariad and Mallorean series all night long.

My brother and I grew up playing what we called "Space", which was basically an imaginary make-believe game that had us becoming anything from Luke Skywalker to a knight in shining armor. Strangely, there were never many princesses that needing saving in our games. We both wanted to be the knight, homemade swords, shields, crossbows and all. Books inspired that creativity in us and let us be a part of their world.

I think I'm a better person because of it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Love #2

I will readily admit that I am a music addict and have been since my earliest days. I grew up having it play in the background from morning until night, a constant accompaniment to the events of our lives. A meal without music was dead air. Sleep refused to come without the soothing tones. It was an integral part of each waking moment and many times part of my dreams.

I had a dream once as a teenager. I was in a dungeon. The walls were lined with moss and mold and dripped water in a constant pattern. Drip. Drip. Drip. I stood in line with several prisoners, or feet shackled together as we marched forward to the rhythm of dripping water, a black-hooded axeman leading the way. Suddenly one of the people in line started whistling and singing. "Here's a little song I wrote, might wanna sing it note for note, don't worry . . . be happy. In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don't worry . . . be happy." Everybody in the line started harmonizing the different parts and the big axeman with his deep voice would say the line, "Don't worry, be happy now." I woke up laughing, hearing the end of the song trailing off on the radio.

Mom taught me to appreciate the classics. When we'd have music appreciation days in elementary and middle school and would do reports on composers the other kids would choose metallica and Pat Benatar. I brought Tchaikovsky and Rachmoninoff and strangely nobody teased me about it. They were interested in hearing more.

Nowadays my tastes run from the water music of Smetana's Moldau to the haunting sound of Laura Fabian's Dream Within from the Final Fantasy soundtrack. I love classical, country, pop, rock, alternative, new age, electronica, dance music, and the list goes on and on.

Music has created the sountrack of my life. It has been there through the highest pinnacles and the deepest sorrows, and it's not just the listening of it I enjoy, but also the playing. I've tinkered with the piano, got a scholarship with the flute, tapped into my celtic roots with the pennywhistle, and picked up bits and pieces of the saxaphone, clarinet, recorder, and harmonica. Music flows through my veins and sometimes I even write it down. At times when I couldn't process what I was feeling with the written word, music did it for me, whether in a piece I composed myself or one that touched my heart.

Music is the language of the soul.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Valentines Challenge

My friend Christine came up with this awesome idea of listing daily throughout February the things that I love. I think it's a fantastic idea and something I need to be reminded of when days are hard. That being said, here is today's item.

I have come to understand and appreciate the importance of family throughout this challenging year. I lost the woman who'd had the greatest influence in my life, but suddenly found myself surrounded by people I didn't know really cared. I've got five brothers and sisters, dozens of nieces and nephews, a fantastic husband and children, and in-laws who I finally see as real people. I've also gained friends who I've adopted into my family and are there with open arms and a listening ear when I need shoulder.

Today my big brother said he loved me. I don't ever remember those words coming from him. It melted an iceberg I'd held in my heart. I am blessed with a fantastic family; funny, sincere, some of them a little gross at times, but always, always loving.

I love them, every one.